May 31, 2006


"There are two kinds of people in the world. Those that dichotomize, like to separate everything into two: black and white, good and evil, etc. And then there are those who don't."

Here are the top ten top ten lists:

  1. Top ten worst beers. And they left out Schlitz Menthol, the only beer I couldn't finish for taste reasons.
  2. Top ten urinals. Yep, whether you are in the desert of Afghanistan or the Tip of the South Pole, there is always a way to whizz.
  3. Top ten worst album covers. And no Boston or Yes!
  4. Top ten stock photography cliches. Funny 'cuz it's true.
  5. Top ten National Geographic videos of 2005. When number 10 is "Hawk vs. Rattler" you just know that it is going to be good.
  6. The top ten free time wasting sites on the internet. Besides reading this.
  7. The top ten ways to destroy the earth. {Insert Dr. Evil laugh here}
  8. Top ten pickup lines. I now know why Netscape is in such bad shape. First, they have about thirty pickup lines in a top ten list. Second, #6 is "Did you fart? Because you just blew me away." Women? Sexy, eh?
  9. Top ten female streakers. 'Nuff said.
  10. Top ten college pranks of all time. And none involve stealing a plastic duck from DU and smoking out of it.
What does this have to do with dichotomies? Some will understand, some won't.

May 30, 2006

Mexico Cerveceros

A lot of talk recently in this country about illegals immigrants. I know Killre had a brief post on this and while I agree that humans that would like to be in this country should be documented I also think that there are larger problems looming in this fine country. For example, Iraq. Or Iran. Or Israel/Palestine. How about price gouging, minimum wage, global warming, the value of the dollar. There are many things that I can think of that are more important items to discuss on a large stage than how people should be allowed into this country.

Sadly, it will not be. The main stream media has taken it's cue from some clown near the Republican congress (I bet Rove) and has decided to make the most important issues immigration, gay rights, and flag burning. I contend that these are all ridiculous issues to argue in 2006 in this country.

I don't mean to sound like I am rebutting Killre. I don't disagree with any of the post. I can offer that the reason some Hispanics are perhaps less than happy when they are called "Mexican" could be because they are Panamanian or Columbian or a Tico. But if they are from Mexico there is nothing wrong with "Mexican." Kinda like I hate being called a Texan.

Anyway, I digress. Again. I do have a solution (that involves Mexico which is how I digressed) for the "Bud Selig Problem." As most of you know Allan Selig used to own the Brewers. Back when they were in a league that did not allow the players to play all of their position. Anyway, my solution:

In order to get a second nation in the "world" series. Move the Brewers to Mexico. This may involve a name change. May I recommend the Mexico Cerveceros. Remove Bud from his job. Remove his citizenship. Give him the Cerveceros. Viola! Problem solved.

If y'all need any more help, just let me know. Until then I need to glue a toe on my dog.

The Undocu Drama

I see aliens. I see them everywhere I go.
I saw one last week in Reno wearing a t-shirt. Black, with white block lettering. It said, "Not Hispanic... Not Latino... Mexican."

Okay, Jose, whatever you say.
Got a question for ya, though: Is that a statement about heritage, or citizenship?

Because if it's heritage, I'm confused. Y'see, the political correctness gestapo --like Greenpeace workers in nicer clothes, shrill and just a little bit crazy-- have been lurking behind every corner for years, poised like hungry dogs, waiting to make evil hexing gestures and screech "Racist Pig" at me should I dare to call you "Mexican" out loud. I mean, if you say "Mexican" is the proper term, I'm fine with it. Just let them know about it, too. Okay?

If, on the other hand, you're making a statement about citizenship... Well now, that --in the words of Lawrence Sanders-- is an equine of a different hue.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard a very obsequious, lawyerly type on one of those prime-time, cable news shows say that he...

Huh? What's that? Obsequious? Well, normally I'd let you go look that up yourself, but today you're in luck. I just happen to have a copy of "Killre's Glossary of Perfectly Good Words That Nobody Ever Uses" right here on the desk next to me. Let's see, now... ostentatious... obstinate... ah, yes, here we are...

obsequious (ob-SEEK-we-us) an adjective used to describe certain people, usually men --usually, in fact, salesmen of one sort or another-- who apparently think they have ten times more charisma than they actually do. Symptoms of obsequiousness include smiling a little too much --and a LOT too broadly-- and using generic, pseudo-familiar forms of address like "buddy" or "my friend" in, like, every sentence they utter.

Now, then, as I was saying: A couple of weeks ago, I heard a very obsequious, lawyerly type on one of those prime-time, cable news shows say that he could never use the word "illegal" to describe all the Mexicans that have chosen to --shall we say-- spend an extended vacation in the U.S. "They are not illegal," he said, tears in his voice but not on his face, "they are undocumented."

I beg to differ, mi amigo.
I know people who know people who know that if you go to the right street corner in San Jose, California --or Laredo, Texas, or any one of a hundred other places throughout the southwest and, probably, the nation at large-- I know that if you talk to the right guy and pay the right price, you can secure documentation that will make you look, on paper at least, more American than I will ever be... and I was born in Indiana! So stop playing semantic games. They are not "undocumented." They have documentation up the ying-yang... illegal documentation.

Besides, trespassing is illegal... and that's essentially what's going on here.

(To be continued.)
P.S... Bud "Three Dollar Haircut" Selig must go.

May 28, 2006

Prepare For Battle! (Grab a plunger.)

[1] My watch must have stopped, because June seems to have come awfully early this year...

[2] ...and on that note: Clearly, it's time to give that little lever on the great commode of life the ol' three-fingered downward wrist-flick and flush away the discolored, stinking mess that this season has become for the Chicago Underachievers and Bud-lighters Society. In fact, I think the time has arrived for Tribune Ink to officially kick off the much-anticipated "CUBS IN 2008!" marketing campaign. I mean really get it into blitzkrieg gear. Just think of all the permutations! Example: "Look on the bright side, Cubs fans, Kerry Wood can blow out his arm again this year and still have plenty of time to come back and..."

[3] I don't care if the word niche is more properly pronounced "neesh." You're an American, dammit. Stop being such a pretentious pinhead. Say "nitch" like everybody else.

[4] Oh, and another thing: It's "eastern" time, not "east-wren" time, putz.

[5] I love The Great Escape, but I can't watch it. Every time I do, I fall in man-love with Steve McQueen and get all hot and bothered to watch, like, all of his other movies. That feeling lasts until I actually see one. Then, of course, I remember: "Oh, that's right... The Great Escape is the only good Steve McQueen movie."

[6] There are hunters and there are killers. Take, for example, Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy's passion for hunting was fueled by an abiding love of nature and the outdoors. Roosevelt regarded hunting as a way to test his mettle against the natural world.

[7] Dick "Darth Sidious" Cheney, by contrast, is a killer. His passion for hunting, if you can call it that... I don't know about you, but I don't consider wandering twenty yards away from the car and flushing a farm-raised, clipped-winged, peanut-sized-brain bird --just because blowing it out of the air is way more fun that shooting it on the ground-- I don't consider that "hunting." I call it "target practice." But I, uh, ahem, I digress. Cheney's passion for "hunting" is fueled by an abiding love of guns and killing things, just for the hell of it.

[8] "...and today's starting pitcher for the Rockies: Hung-One Kim."

[9] First of all, it isn't that good a book. Secondly, I just don't have the time to devote to all the little games he's playing. So, could somebody please tell the dumb trucker just what the hell is going on on pages 60, 95, 138, 141, 192, 217 and 262? Please?

[10] *sigh* It might be time to start talking seriously about a new stadium deal for The Chicago National League Baseball Club-- yes, dammit, you heard me right. I don't like it any more than you do, but I see no other viable option. One of Bud "The Anti-Christ" Selig's many ridiculous proposals, still on the table, is to not only continue inter-league play --which itself is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, right up there with Pestilence-- but to invert the leagues' rules while doing so! In other words, Arena League rules would be used in National League ballparks. Obviously, the man is insane. Everybody knows that there's a very good reason why the idea has never been tried before: It could easily tear a hole in the fabric of the cosmos. Now, ahem... while there are days when I feel that tearing a hole in the cosmos is actually a pretty good idea, I'm usually reasonable enough to suggest a more low-key way of doing it. Like global nuclear warfare, for instance. Anyway, for this reason alone, if not for any other, it may well be time to kiss Wrigley Field goodbye, before you have to stick your head between your legs and kiss your [donkey] goodbye instead.

[11] A word to the wise... If you have "daytime running lamps," or "automatic headlights" (which are essentially the same thing,) it doesn't necessarily mean that your taillights are automatic, too. And-um, you should probably know this, night rider: You look really stupid driving around with no taillights.

[12] Huey Lewis and the News are releasing a 'Greatest Hits' package. In other words, they are reissuing the album Sports as a boxed set.

[13] A.J. Pierzynski was fined two thousand dollars by the commissioner's office last week... for playing good, hard baseball. Clearly, (one can imagine the commissioner intoning,) there is no place for good, hard play in this day and age... The future of baseball is not to be found in good, hard play; it is to be found in one sophomoric gimmick after another.
In the words of Charles M. Schultz: ARRGH!! Bud Selig must go.

May 26, 2006

Stupid Toys

I do well with children and animals. Any critter that is only somewhat aware of rules seem to like me. I allow a fair amount of running which makes me popular. Many adults don't like running. In hallways, near pools, with knives . . . I also don't just allow, but encourage, bed jumping. Good times there. If the parent's weren't so cheap and bought a trampoline this wouldn't be the issue it always is. "Uncle F, we don't jump on beds." Condescending clowns. You may not, my fertile friend, but your child and I do. And we prefer your bed. It's bigger. And for the umpteenth time I'm sorry about the lamp.

Anyway, last weekend I packed up my wife, her sister, two dogs (one four-toed, one three) turned on the Cavs-Pistons game on the satellite and headed to Sheboygan for my nephew's birthday party.

In the midst of watching this child receive video games, books, swords, skateboards, sets of things that only he can figure out how to put together, I began talking some relative (don't know how we are related. Her side of the family.) about the crappy toys of my day. One in particular. My dad's sliest move ever.

I used to read quite a bit of comic books in my youth (around 10-12) and in the back of the comic books there was an add that I bet every guy reading has seen. This one:

There were two that interested me. The X-Ray glasses and the See-through-peoples-clothes glasses. I felt that it was safer to go with the X-Ray because who knows what kind of packaging the clothes one came in. Whatever it was I was sure it would equal trouble. Plus, everyone would want to borrow them. SO the X-Ray Glasses were the item for me. I set on my way to get a pair.
My father told me that if I mowed our lawn for a month that he would buy them for me. Until the very moment I uploaded the image I never noted that the glasses were only $2 with shipping. I am sure that my meager allowance would have covered that. Certainly over lawn mowing. Not only did I mow the lawn, I threw in some dishwashing and room cleaning the week before the item was sent for to ensure no arguments.

Months later these things arrive. Excited I run to my room to check out my bones. I will find out if this skeletal things is really what I have been led to believe it was through Scooby-Doo. This would be the first step towards becoming a doctor. I will specialize in bones. Femurs, Tibulas, Knuckle-bones, the works. I will see parts of people that they will never see. Not as exciting as the parts they don't want me to see but baby steps. Baby steps.

I put them on and figure a good first test is the hand test as seen in the advertisement. I hold my hand in front of my face and . . .

To say it was a let-down would be an understatement. Within two years I would be working at a video store and very happy. These crappy glasses just show you a shadow like image of your hand and where the shadows overlap it vaguely looks like a bone. Y'know if you have an IQ of a retarded gnat.

At this point in the story I saw the kid put the party on hold while he booted up his GameCube for "one quick game" of SpongeBob's Big Adventure. At least he didn't have to mow lawns. Yet.

May 25, 2006


Not only a fantastic John Lescroart book, it is also what Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling are.

Ken Lay is guilty on one count conspiracy, two counts wire fraud, and three counts securities fraud. He also has donated over $651, 760 to the Republican party which should be god for a pardon in two years. His sentence will b 20-30 years.

Jeffrey Skilling is guilty on one count conspiracy, twelve counts security fraud, 5 counts false statements, and two counts of insider trading (not guilty of eight). This too will be a 10-30 year sentence and with his $162,750 he should also be pardoned.

Tom Skilling, Chicago weatherman and brother of Jeff, says it will be a very cold and rainy summer.

Update: Howard just called to let me know that we for sure will not find out who was on Cheney's secret Energy Task Force now.

May 24, 2006

31% talk

"[T]here's too much politics in Washington these days. There really is. And so my worry is, not so much about Jeb, but when people take a look at Washington and say, why mess with it? Why do I want to put my family through it all? And my advice to them is, one, it's worth it. But my advice, also, to all of us in public office is not to demean somebody because you don't agree with them. At least, in the debate, be considerate of the other person's point of view."
- G.W.Bush 5/22/06

"Go fuck yourself."
- R.B.Cheney 6/25/04

This [richard] hangs to the right

After my rant yesterday I have noticed that others have picked up on Sterling Burnett's idiocy.

  • Here is the video.
  • He made the front page of DailyKos.
  • Here is an advertisement that was made by the no-think tank claiming carbon dioxide is good for us. We breathe it out therefore it is good.
I apologize for my outburst yesterday. Sterling Burnett is an ass, though.

Coming soon, a three toed dog.

May 22, 2006

The Deaf Guy

I know I don't need to tell you what the state of Idaho looks like on a map.

Notice how I don't let that stop me, though...
Look at the outline of Idaho on a map and you might be reminded of a large, fat bottle that someone took the time to lean very carefully against a brick wall... and then turned a flame-thrower upon. Not enough to consume it, mind you, just enough to melt it a little. Just enough to make the body of the bottle slow-motion recoil and sag and slump until it fills the right angle formed by the wall and the ground, so that you are left with a squared-off, sloping lump with a bottleneck sticking up out of it.

The city of Post Falls is in the bottleneck. It's roughly 100 miles from the Canadian border... and about 300 miles from Boise. Just outside the city is a Flying J truckstop. Actually, the term "truckstop" is a bit grandiose. The place started out as nothing more than a fuel stop: Half a dozen grimy, pug-nosed diesel pumps standing resentful sentry outside a slightly less grimy, convenience-store-sized building. No parking. Fill up and [fornicate] off.

A couple of years ago, that changed. Somebody built a spanking new McDonald's two plats away and, not long after, paved the large, vacant lot in between. Kind-hearted soul that they were, they painted nice, big parking spaces onto the new pavement-- enough to hold about three dozen big rigs. I was sitting there eating my french fries when...

Okay, first of all: McDonald's french fries are the best in the genre. Bar none. If you don't agree, you should probably seek professional help. One of the reasons why they are the best is because McDonald's starts off by buying the best potatoes. Yes, Idaho potatoes are the best. You may safely believe the hype. The 'taters are washed and peeled and cut into fries as soon as possible after harvest. Then they are frozen, sealed into plastic bags and placed in cardboard boxes that are actually labelled "McDonald's French Fries." Soon after, they are loaded onto refrigerated trucks and shipped to cold storage warehouses all over the country.

I don't know how long they stay there, on average. Sooner or later, some local truck driver who works, no doubt, for a company with the word "Logistics" in its name is told to hook onto a trailer with a McDonald's logo (for appearances' sake) and go to the cold storage warehouse. He takes on several pallets of frozen fries and several pallets of frozen pies and several pallets of frozen patties and several pallets of frozen buns and, well, you get the idea... then he spends his day replenishing the freezer at half a dozen local McDonald's restaurants.

There's a certain irony in eating McDonald's fries in Post Falls, Idaho. The city is so far removed from the expansive and... uh... hmm. The city is so far removed from the expansive and, frankly, rather boring Snake River valley where the potatoes are grown that the fries have likely spent most of the past several weeks in a cold warehouse somewhere out of state. Likely Spokane, Washington. But I digress.

I was sitting there eating my french fries when a guy walked up to my truck and thrust a brightly colored card at me. It was about two and a half by three inches and about the thickness of what used to be called typewriter paper. On it was a reduced photocopy from a twenty or thirty year old textbook: 26 drawings of a human hand, describing how to make the letters of the alphabet in sign language. I frowned at the card. Then I frowned at the guy. He made a motion, indicating that I should flip the card over. I did. On the back was a message explaining that he was deaf, and that he was "selling" these cards as a way of making some extra money. There was no price. The card simply said, "please give whatever you feel is appropriate."

I frowned at the guy again, and he started running through a set of signs. I think he was telling me to bunt. I tossed the card up on the dash and ran through my own set of signs: tug the right earlobe, tug the left, tap the tip of the nose, pull on the bill of the cap, grab the left forearm, grab the right, remove the cap, wipe the forehead, replace the cap, dig into the right ear with the pinkie finger and then clap. As I'm sure you all know, that means I want the runner to steal and the batter to take a pitch. Anyone who missed the signs, see me in the clubhouse after the game and we'll trade swats like a couple of frat boys. Ladies, too: Consider it as taking one step closer to equality.

The deaf guy --and I really do think he was deaf-- missed the signs. Maybe because he was still running through his own. Or running through them again: By now, he was probably repeating himself. Then he made the unmistakable pantomime of cradling a baby in his arms. I rolled my eyes.

I didn't need a card with sign language on it. First of all, I don't know any deaf people. Secondly, I already have a whole introductory textbook on sign language in my library at home. (Think whatever you like about that.) Thirdly, I am in many ways a Typical Unreasonable American Pinhead who thinks that everybody --foreigners and deaf people alike-- can understand you perfectly well so long as you eee... nun... see... ate... yore... wurdz. All in all, though, it wasn't a bad scam, so I dug a dollar out and tossed it at him. He snatched it out of the air, gave me that sign that either means "thank you" or "you have something on your chin," and then he was gone. I stubbornly fought the compulsion to wipe my chin. I think I withstood it for about six seconds. After that, I pretty much forgot about the deaf guy, until...

About a month later, I was in Fontana, deep in the heart of sun-bleached southern California. Fontana is one of the many municipalities in the eastern half of the greater L.A. basin-- that part of greater La-La land that calls itself the "Inland Empire," which is a Latin phrase that means "out near San Berdoo." It is over 1200 highway miles (trust me) and several worlds away from Post Falls, Idaho.

I was sitting in some big, stinking rat hole of a truckstop, killing time, when a guy walked up to my truck and thrust a brightly colored card at me. I frowned at the card: It was a different color. I frowned at the guy: He looked exactly the same. I spread my arms in a "what gives?" gesture. Then, looking right at him, I said, "Didn't... eye... see... yoo... up... in... eye... duh... hoe... uh... bout... uh... munth... uh... go?"

He pretended not to hear me. You'd be surprised how good deaf people are at that. He started running through his signs, including the baby-cradling one, but I waved him off. If he didn't want to listen to what I had to say, then I didn't want to listen to him, either. I handed him his card back. He looked at it, then at me, then at the card again. His expression was a mixture of disappointment and confusion. Then he made that "thank you" sign and walked away. I sat there and watched him approach another truck and fought the compulsion to wipe off my chin. I think I lasted about eight seconds.

P.S... Bud "See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil" Selig must go.

For Whom the Tolls *Cha-ching!*

Interesting move.
I don't know if it's gotten much coverage in the far-flung neighborhoods and municipalities of greater Chicagoland, but they are still doing road work on the Southland Tollway. Literally, now, not hyperbole: They have been working on that stretch of highway since the last century.

Ahh, the last century... How I long for those halcyon days of yesteryear when the President was putting the wood to willing, starry-eyed interns instead of the Constitution itself; when the Bishop Ford was known as the Calumet; when the relative few who owned SUVs actually did have serious thoughts of climbing a mountain somewhere; when we still had a healthy tension between the three branches of the Federal government; when Kerry Wood had yet to blow his arm out for the first time; and when driving the Southland Tollway didn't mean seemingly endless miles of orange cones and flashing lights and narrow lanes and ludicrously low posted speeds and the utter scam of its existence was a largely innocuous one.

The Southland Tollway is that five-mile stretch of the Tri-State that merges with Interstate 80 --just east of Kedzie Avenue in Hazel Crest-- and runs east to its junction with the Calu... uh, Bishop Ford. This relatively short section of highway carries two numbers, I-80 and I-294. The second shield is superfluous; it's there for jurisdictional reasons. It give the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority an excuse to put a toll plaza on Interstate 80 and collect duty from travelers seeking only to sneak past Chicago on their way from Indiana to Iowa or vice versa-- people who have no interest in becoming entangled in the busy ant-colony traffic patterns of the sprawling city by the lake.

It is, as I said, a scam. A decade ago, it was a minor one: Thirty cents for cars and ninety cents for big rigs. (This was back in the days before somebody invented the idea of gouging trucking companies for more than three times as much as cars.) Nowadays, the penalty for playing is sixty-five cents for cars, an increase of 117%, and three dollars for trucks... which is a whopping 233% increase. Meanwhile, the number of lanes has decreased by one-third and the posted speed is down 18%. Of course, with all the added congestion, the actual decrease in speed is virtually incalculable.

Congestion, in fact, might be the biggest reason for the rate hike. Raise the price, cause avoidance. It hasn't worked. Many people who travel the Southland Tollway either don't know of an alternate route or, in the case of the trucks, aren't allowed to use one. The congestion has gotten so bad that ISTHA has had to try something new: Selectively lowering the tolls.

Interesting move.
In an effort to reduce the number of smoking, choking, belching behemoths who use the Southland during the day, ISTHA has reduced the toll to $2.25 for big rigs that use it at night. Specifically, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. It's a relatively new policy, less than a month old. As far as I know, they haven't done a real good job of getting the word out, either. Probably, they are afraid of a certain backlash either from ordinary motorists who routinely drive at night or from trucking companies that are largely unable to.

Then, too, there's the uneasy fact that such a time-oriented discount flies in the face of the principle of Federal Motor-carrier hours-of-service regulations. Technically, the so-called "log book" regs merely tell a truck driver when he can't drive. Their practical effect, however, is to also tell a driver when he must drive... or risk not getting any work done. Either way, encouraging an interstate trucker to use a certain length of highway at a certain time of day or night is tantamount to encouraging him or her to blow off the regulations, which strikes me as something a government agency probably isn't supposed to be doing. But, hey, what do I know?

Maybe it helps to explain why, in a state known for 'round-the-clock weigh station operations, all the coops along Interstate 80 have been closed most of the time... particularly at night. Hmm.

P.S... Bud "Money In the Pocket Today Is Better Than Money In the Bank Tomorrow" Selig must go.

Stray Thoughts from a Stray Cat

[1] Believe it or not, I really haven't put a whole lot of thought into a piece detailing (or even outlining) all the long-suffering problems the Cubs have had --and can expect to continue having-- with their recently reactivated right-hander, Kerry "Shooting Star" Wood. Ahh, but if I did have something on the subject, you can easily guess what my title for it would be. Yep: "The Knock On Wood."

[2] Last Thursday, I guess, was Hitchhiker's Day. Sorry I didn't get you anything. Actually, it may only have been a holiday in western Nevada. I saw five hitchhikers in a stretch of about 130 miles between Fernley and Winnemucca. Only two of them had that hairy, greasy, talks-to-people-who-aren't-there look, so apparently America is producing a better grade of drifter these days.

[3] It's what we call a circular argument, Georgie...
"Trust me. I know I haven't given you any reason to trust me, except for saying, 'trust me,' but trust me when I tell you, 'you can trust me.'"
See what I mean?

[4] More proof that we are going the way of the Romans: New Orleans just reelected Mayor Ray "Puddin'head" Naggin, who diddled while his city drowned.

[5] Hey, look at that: This Blinkin' Administration is using the high price of gasoline to leverage permission to drill in the Arctic National... Oh, wait, no, that's not quite right. They are using the high price of gas to get permission for their companies to drill... No, that's not it, either. They are using the ungodly price of gasoline to get permission for the companies they "used to" work for (*wink-wink* *blink-blink*) to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Show of hands: Is there anybody, anybody at all, who didn't see that coming from about three light-years away? No? Didn't think so.

[6] For [of Nazareth's] sake, people, why do you think they call it American Idol? It's purpose is to make American brains idle.

[7] America Nidol.

[8] Dick "Shoot First and Don't Answer Questions Later" Cheney.

[9] I struggled away from Lake Point Junction, Utah, not unlike the space shuttles clear the launch pad at Cape Kennedy: Shivering and shuddering and rivet rattling, impressive horsepower straining to heave impressive tonnage into motion from out of a deep well of stagnant inertia. I knew I was faster than the guy I was chasing, but he had one hell of a head start and it was only twenty miles to the city limits. I started gaining, but there was a sharp curve ahead. I would have to back off the throttle considerably or risk pitching my load to one side-- maybe even rolling the truck over. I didn't know how much he'd have to slow down, if at all. In any case, he'd have the inside track. I slowed before I got there, then accelerated when I was about a third of the way through-- textbook. I hadn't lost much time. Slowly, I started gaining on him again. I was going to win! As I eased past, I ran my passenger's-side window down and waved... to the engineer.

[10] George W. "The Smirking Marionette" Bush took office saying, "Ahm uh you-nahter, naht uh div-vahder." I'm beginning to believe you, Georgie. The way things are going, in another couple of years, everybody --and I mean everybody-- will be "unahted" in thinking you're an incompetent, self-serving little pinhead. Congratulations.

[11] How ya doin', Howard?

[12] You know you're having a bad day when you realize that you've been sleeping for several hours right next to a truck that is placarded "radioactive" and you can't find the gumption to move.

[13] Bud "Why, Yes: I Am Running Out of Ideas" Selig must go.

The Santo Clause

I've said it before and I'll say it again: As a broadcaster, Ron Santo was one hell of a great third baseman. You might remember a couple of weeks ago when I called Santo the Worst Sportscaster in the History of Broadcasting. A friend of mine took exception with that statement. He didn't disagree with the sentiment, exactly, but he had a nominee of his own: Joe Carter.

Hmm. Good point. In his entire tenure as a Cubs commentator, Joe Carter never analyzed or broke down a single play. Not one. All he ever did was wait for Chip "Which Breast Joke Should I Use This Inning" Caray to finish awkwardly mixing two or three cliches into one sentence, then repeat everything Caray had just said, without the big words. It isn't so much that Carter saw his job as being an overstuffed, dumbed-down parrot sitting on Chip's shoulder; it's that Carter never realized his job actually was a job.

You will probably regard this illustration as incredibly nit-picky, but I maintain that it is symptomatic of Carter completely missing the point. Southwest Airlines paid a very princely sum to have the Cubs' commentator say, at least once every home game, "Southwest Airlines Plane-view Camera." It was very important to Southwest that it be said in precisely that way. So important, in fact, that I'd bet a substantial sum that the phrase was printed on an index card and taped to one of the walls of the television booth, just in case the commentator was too dumb to remember exactly how it went. Alas, the powers that be never counted on someone like Joe Carter, who was apparently too dumb to read. While Southwest paid handsomely to hear (say it with me now,) "There's the Southwest Airlines Plane-view Camera, high atop Wrigley Field," what they got instead was, "Dere's Dee Souffwess Plane-vyoo." Think I'm being nit-picky? Tell it to the battered wife of the Southwest executive who made that deal.

Even if you take inane, utter wastes of airtime like Joe Carter into account, however, Ron Santo is still pretty bad. He was, as I said before, one hell of a great third baseman, and he should be in the Hall of Fame. Period. But he was also, from what I've read and can surmise, a bit of a prig in his younger days. Not an outright, balls-to-the-wall [sphincter] on the order of a Barry Bonds or a Pete Rose, mind you, but just enough of a prig to [whiz] some people off enough to leave him on the outside of Cooperstown, looking in. Hence the WGN radio gig. Somebody at Tribune Ink saw it as their civic duty to give Ron Santo some exposure --perhaps, even, a chance to show that he's mellowed with age-- in the hopes that it would lead to more popular support for his enshrinement. That was 17 years ago. And counting.

Santo's current play-by-play partner is Pat Hughes. If Santo, as a broadcaster, was a great third baseman, then Hughes, as a broadcaster, has a great former third baseman sitting next to him in the booth. That's about all I can say. Hughes is neither good nor bad, he's... adequate. His two biggest sins are: (1) Just to kill time, he often lofts big, fat, verbal softballs in Santo's direction and waits to see how far "Ronnie" will hit them; (2) All too frequently, he takes untimely and extended bathroom breaks.

It was this second of Hughes' sins that led to The Calamity. With dreadful suddenness, the network came back from a commercial break before Hughes did. With butterflies in his stomach and sweat glistening on his brow, Ron Santo started doing play-by-play... and glass began to shatter all over the upper mid-west. If you don't remember The Calamity, it's probably for the best. The part of your mind that makes these kinds of choices has wisely decided that your psyche cannot handle the trauma, and has buried your memories of it deep in your subconscious. The next time you awaken yourself in the middle of the night, screaming, bolt upright, heart pounding, it's probably because of repressed memories of Ron Santo doing play-by-play.

The Calamity tasered outward in a light-speed shock-wave from radio towers all over the Great Lakes region and the northern Great Plains. Before even one out had been recorded, 21 people on the Kennedy Expressway had spontaneously swerved underneath the tandem axles of the nearest tractor-trailer. Game wardens in the western reaches of South Dakota reported the next day the curious incident of three perfectly healthy timber wolves, in three separate locations, who all apparently committed suicide by throwing themselves from sheer cliffs into deep, hard-scrabble canyons. Personally, I figure that happened sometime around the second out.

By the time the inning was over, the white-collar Tribune fat cat who had hired Santo in the first place --a man with a title like "Senior Executive Director of Production" or "Vice President in Charge of Producing Direction" or "Sub-Supreme Grand High Potentate," which makes every bit as much sense as-- was found dead in his den, the apparent victim of a very sudden stroke, a broken tumbler of single malt staining the carpet nearby. This incident was covered up, of course, after the Tribune quickly made a, uh, "donation" to the local police chief-- not because there was anything to hide, really, just because this is Chicago, and that's how things are done.

When the Sub-Supreme Grand High Potentate's successor, a fortunately younger man whom I shall henceforth refer to as the High Pot and Noose, heard the tape of The Calamity, his knees buckled and he chunked his jaw on the desk, but he managed to hit the "stop" button on the tape machine before his head exploded. Immediately, he hurried out and hired Andy Masur, a young but long-time broadcaster and even longer-time Cubs fan.

Andy was, at that time, reading traffic reports every ten minutes on WMAQ... or maybe it was farm commodity prices every twenty minutes on WBBM... who knows? In any case, he was probably spending a lot of time wondering if his best days in broadcasting weren't already behind him. He'd been the nighttime disc jockey at a Peoria radio station that called itself KZ-93, spinning Top 30 Pap from seven 'til midnight. I know this because... uh... well... because I worked there, too, dammit, albeit on the AM side of the hallway. Don't rub it in. No, I don't have any "dirt" on Andy Masur. If somebody asked me to tattle, about all I could ever say is that he used to sneak girls into the FM booth to impress them with his ability to push buttons and speak directly into a piece of electronic equipment that was shaped like a Very Large Penis. But heck, we all did that. Over on the AM side, the girls would smile and slowly shake their heads and kinda roll their eyes a little... a combination that I learned meant, "I admire your pluck, but you're still not getting any." Anyway, when Masur was offered the job as Pat Hughes' bathroom-break fill-in, he jumped at the chance. When it came to a discussion about salary and benefits, he most likely said, "You mean you're going to PAY me, too?"

But then the hazing started. It came in the form of a visit to the inner sanctum of the High Pot and Noose. (Incidentally, this visit was the first, last and only time Andy Masur has ever even been on that particular floor of the Mother Ship.) When I knew him, Andy was a pretty good guy. He didn't impress me as a paragon of sensitivity, but every man has his breaking point-- and being forced to listen to a recording of Ron Santo doing play-by-play is like being bent forward at the waist and having your head locked into a vice with your face about eight inches away from a very strong-smelling onion that someone then proceeds to chop into tiny, tiny pieces. Before long, Andy was a tearful, huddled, quivering mass in the far corner of the Noose's office.

When he thought Masur had had about all he could take, the Noose shut off the tape machine. With a deep sigh, he removed his ear plugs and poured two stiff drinks. He handed one to Andy and gave him a few minutes to compose himself. Then, taking a seat behind his desk, he fixed Masur with the steeliest look you could imagine. "Your prime directive," he said, with just the slightest nod toward the tape machine, "Don't ever let that happen again. Ever."

P.S... Bud "No, That Isn't Steroids Making My Skin All Blotchy" Selig must go.

May 19, 2006

Little Hitlers

I'll put money down that there is no more unfortunate of a surname than Hitler. The same way that no one will ever wear one of those little tiny moustaches again I would even guarantee that if there was a Hitler the parents would never give the child the first name of Adolf. At least I would have before watching the documentary Hitler's Family. As I learned there not only is an Adolf Hitler alive, but he lives in New York. And he is a descendant of the infamous chancellor.

Seems that Adolf had a half-brother named Alois. Alois moved to Dublin, met an irishwoman named Bridget Dowling, eloped to Liverpool and had a child. In 1911, Alois and Bridget Hitler gave birth to a son named William Patrick. Growing up he was called either "Paddy" Hitler or "Billy" Hitler by his classmates and townsfolk. He grew up on Upper Stanhope Street in Liverpool. This house was destroyed in 1942 by the last German air-raid on Liverpool and is still a bomb-site.

Alois ran a hotel, restaurant, and a boarding house. Eventually, he went bankrupt returning to Germany leaving his wife and child. 1929 would be the next time that Paddy would see his now polygamous father by visiting him in Germany. This is an uneventful part of the story but I like the thought of a polygamous Hitler. I don't know why.

When Billy Hitler grew up he moved to London. By this time his uncle had risen to power and his life, for the first time, began to change due to his surname. He was fired from his job for being a Hitler. Having bad luck reestablishing himself in London, he decided to take advantage of his uncle's new power and moved to Germany in 1933.

Adolf got his nephew many jobs. Among them a banker, car salesman, and a factory worker. Unhappy with vocational choices his uncle was giving him he opted to ask the fuhrer for a better job. Foolishly, he did this by blackmailing Adolf. He threatened to go public with the fact that Adolf's grandfather was an Austrian Jew. This did not sit well with Germany's leader. In response to the threat, Adolf demanded that William give up his British citizenship and join the Third Reich in a senior position. This response made William nervous.

Distrusting his uncle and frightened that maybe this whole blackmail thing may have been a bad idea, William fled Germany and returned to London. Here he wrote his first article for the magazine Look entitled, Why I hate my Uncle. Despite his article, the British were still not thrilled to have a Hitler in their midst's and William left for the land of freedom, the U.S.A.

Paddy arrived in New York in 1939 and began speaking on the lecture circuit (at the behest of yellow journalism founder William Randolph Hearst) with his lecture "My Uncle Adolf." In 1941, once the US entered WWII, interest in his lectures waned. People apparently did not want to hear about Hitler, they just wanted him dead.

In 1942, William wrote President Roosevelt to ask that he be allowed to join the US military. The British would not take him due to his surname. He noted in his letter to the president that he and his mother owed a "great debt" to the US. It took a while for the FBI to look into his background but in 1944 he was allowed to join the Navy. One of the last stories of our William Patrick Hitler occurs at this time. When he enters the draft office and tells the recruiting officer his name the officer replies, "Glad to see you, Hitler. My name is Hess."

This would be the last time that W.P. would ever be seen or heard from in public again.

I know this is long but admit it, it is fascinating. Now here comes the part that you could not have read in the papers of the day. In fact, no one knew this part until 2002 when David Gardner wrote the book, Last of the Hitlers, which the BBC documentary is based off of.

In the 1930's Billy had a friend in England. When the war was looming, he asked W.P. to look after his younger sister. William accepted. The friend's sister, Phyllis, was 12 years younger than William and in 1947, post-WWII they were married. The Hitlers had changed their names to the Stewart-Houstons. They had four sons.

The new moniker Stewart-Houston came, strangely, from Stewart Houston Chamberlain who was a British ideologist whom Adolf Hitler once referred to as "The Prophet of the Third Reich."It was Mr. Chamberlain that first starting referring to the Aryan race in terms of the racially elite and not by ethno-linguistic origins. Sorry. I digressed. Just note that Chamberlain was anti-Semitic too. This is probably why they changed the name to Stuart-Houston at some point. As I was saying, they had four sons.

One son, Howard, died in 1989. He was the only son who was married. He had no children. The remaining siblings, Alex, Brian and Louis are still alive and well. There is a rumor that they have a pact to not have any children so that the Hitler blood-line would die with them. The youngest, Brian, claims that if there is such a pact he is unaware of it.

I claimed at the beginning of the post that there is still an Adolf Hitler alive in NY. The oldest son's full birth name is Alexander Adolph Hitler.

Addendum: William Patrick Stuart-Houston died in 1987 and is buried next to his mother in NY. The family decided to use the Stuart-Houston name after much debate about whether or not to leave the tomb unmarked. Phyllis is still alive.

Last month in New York a play opened entitled Little Willy. It is about the life of William Patrick Hitler. A musical.

May 15, 2006

Don't Call Us-- We'll Call You

If you're upset that the National Security Agency has your phone records, it's because you haven't been paying attention. Yes, it does seem illegal and wrong. Wrong it is. But illegal? Not so much.

First of all, the NSA didn't get your phone records through espionagesque skulduggery. They got them the same way telemarketing firms get their information: They paid for it in cold, hard cash. Actually, they probably paid by check, but you get the idea. It was a check big enough to make three of the nation's four largest phone service providers --AT & T, Bell South and Verizon-- smile, step aside, make an arm-sweeping gesture and say, "Of course. Take whatever you like." There was nothing cloak and dagger about it. It was a straightforward business deal.

The only company of the four to tell the Executive Branch to go [coitate] itself was Qwest. I'd like to believe they did so as a matter of principle. And I'll take any principle. I'd prefer the one that goes, "Hey, this doesn't seem right," of course, but I'll gladly accept the more marketing-oriented one that says, "Go with a company that showed a little backbone." Yes, I'd like to think it was principle. More likely, though, they were just holding out for a bigger check.

Even if you take at face value Qwest's reluctance to be corporate milquetoast and sell their customers' transduced souls, it still makes for an interesting impromtu study in something we don't like to think about too often: Three out of four Rulers of Corporate America is a sense-of-entitlement-reeking, rolling-in-more-dough-than-the-Creator-of-the-Universe (whomever or whatever it might be,) largely inbred and utterly isolated spiritual cannibal who thinks the biggest problem this country faces is that there isn't enough demarcation between the different strata of its unspoken caste system. It's that attitude, at least in part, that makes it easy for them to sell you out to your own government. And it is that same attitude that made the government buy you with your own tax dollars when they didn't have to.

Because, y'see, the government didn't have to pay. Not really. Your phone calls are not private. They virtually never have been.

First of all, until a relatively short time ago at least, there were many people in this country who had what were called "party" phone lines. For all I know, there may still be a few out there. If you've never heard of one, have an older relative tell you about it. Moreover, even people with private lines still had to route nearly all of their calls through a switchboard somewhere-- a switchboard run by a real-life operator. There are still many, many phones that have the word "operator" printed on them somewhere near the zero key.

But I'm not even talking about that. I'm talking about today... and the Federal Communications Act of 1933. Think about it: Just about every call that you or I or your aunt Gertrude makes, everyday, involves either a cellphone or a cordless phone. Even if you aren't using one on your end of the call, the person you're conversing with probably is. Right? Well, cellular phones and land-based phones with cordless receivers both use radio waves. According to the Federal Communications Act of 1933, radio waves cannot be owned. Or privatized. Any information --such as your phone call-- carried on any radio wave is not protected by any privacy laws or provisions. You are, in effect, broadcasting... and anybody with a receiver capable of tuning to the right frequency is perfectly within their rights to listen. Anybody.

Something tells me the NSA probably has a piece of equiptment like that. One or two, anyway. What's your guess?

If anybody should be [whizzed] at the NSA, it's the FBI. After all, spying on Americans --right here in America-- is their job. I think they should --oh, I don't know-- raid the NSA. As for you and me, we should be [pea owed] at the phone company. But what's new about that?

Right now, I'd like to give a big "shout out" to ALL of our loyal readers at the National Security Agency. (I think his name is Howard.) Congratulations on giving those CIA [expletives] yet another sharp elbow to the solar plexus. My, those agency budget wars have been getting awfully confrontational lately, haven't they? Remember to dust for fingerprints at least three times a day and, ah, you might want to take a quick look over your shoulder every now and then, too.

P.S... Bud "If That's Senator Mitchell on the Phone, Tell Him I'm Not Here" Selig must go.

May 14, 2006

Department of Corrections

Hello, all. I come to you this week from the great (lakes) state of Michigan, land of the ten-cent refund (on empty bottles and cans) and the seven-course meal (a six-pack and a bucket of smelt). This, for you, is good news. Since I am away from my regular workshop, I won't be staggering the strands of the web with a ponderous payload of new posts. Not this week, anyway. Next week, watch out.

Some of you may have noted the sheer volume of material that suddenly appeared last Monday. You may also have noted how rife that material was with little nuts-and-bolts mistakes: Misspelled words, improper tenses, and two superfluous apostrophes that have been eating at me all week. (If it is any consolation, I took it upon myself to draw --with a big, red marker-- a large circle-slash on my forehead, which I then wore for six days... three days for each apostrophical infraction.) I am not immune to typographical errors, but I usually try to be more meticulous than that.

Perhaps you think it strange of me to mention these mistakes. I have a reason: From time to time, I intentionally misspell words (or even make them up!*) as well as make other "mistakes." Usually, I have a reason for doing so-- one which pertains to that specific posting. So, I would rather cop to sheer sloppiness when it occurs than leave you having to wonder about some future textual oddity-- Does this have some sort of implication, or is nothing more than an outright screw-up?

I hereby state, categorically: Any little mistakes (and there are many) in the seven pieces I posted last week were the result of nothing more than excessive punchiness and poor proof-reading. I'm genuinely sorry for letting them slip past me, and I'll try to not let it happen again.

*The word "platp," for instance. Probably, if you read Lost Lenore, this word looked like a typo. It wasn't. I did it on purpose. It is intended to be a hybrid of the word "plat" and the onomatopoeic "plopped."

P.S... Bud "I, I'd Say I'm... Pretty Decisive, I Think" Selig must go.

May 13, 2006

Workin' the Teton Trail

Somewhere in the ramshackle badlands of western Nebraska, I passed an 18-wheeler with the words "Show Your Hooters" scrawled into the dust on the rear door of the trailer. Friends, take note: Whenever you see this sort of wash-me-esque message, don't automatically assume that the driver who happens to be pulling that trailer at that particular moment is the one who wrote it. Most of those trailers are shuffled around from tractor to tractor on a near-daily basis. Additionally, they may spend anywhere from a few days to a few weeks parked in company drop lots, customer drop lots, city streets, truck stops and the occasional shopping center or mall parking lot. In any number of locations, virtually anyone can leave a quick message. The driver might not even be aware of it. Even if he or she does know, they may not have had time to get rid of it. In the days following the unexpected death of race car driver Dale Earnhardt, I picked up a trailer on which someone had written "#3 Forever." Not wishing to make such a bold political statement, I tried to wash it off. All I succeeded in doing was brightening the letters-- setting them into sharper contrast with the baked-on, caked-on, gray-brown grime into which they'd been carved.

Also... ladies, in particular... please try not to be offended too much by overly blunt messages like "Show Me Your Tits" or "Be A Firt-- Lift Your Skirt." I agree wholeheartedly that these are heavy-handed, clumsy and lacking in imagination. (I did, once upon a time, see a relatively imaginative one: A smiling, good-looking young guy was rolling through Tennessee one day, pulling a trailer that sported the legend "Leg Check, 60 ft Ahead.") Blunt though they may be, however, most of them are meant in the spirit of (literally) passing flirtatiousness, nothing more, and shouldn't be taken too seriously.

So anyway... I passed this truck that had "Show Your Hooters" written on the back of the trailer. As I eased past him, I obliged. He didn't seem very impressed.

Nearly 200 miles later, I was roaring along through that pancake-flat topographical corridor once known to westerly-trudging pioneers as The Great Platte River Road. The day was warm and bright. I was listening to the ballgame, sipping a Coke and doing my best to mind my own damn business when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the front end of a bright red car ease up next to me. Whomever it was had been doing about 85 (to my 75,) but had slowed down to match my speed when they'd pulled even with my driver's-side window.

I glanced over. It was a bright red Eclipse convertible. There was a woman behind the wheel, alone. As I said, it was a convertible and she was driving with the top down. She was also, uh, driving with the top down, if you know what I mean. In other words, although the day was warm, it had suddenly become very nipply out there. A Very Nice Set of... second base bags, if you'll excuse me using technical jargon. Needless to say, I did a double-take-- in more ways than one.

She was looking straight ahead, eyes on the road. You've got to admire a woman who can give you a gratuitous gander at her Chi-Chis and simultaneously maintain proper lane position. So, admire her I did... for two or three long seconds.

But because I'm a professional, I didn't dally too long before checking the road myself. Yep, it was still there. And surprisingly, I was still on it. We were rushing along a straight, flat stretch of Interstate 80, somewhere west of Lexington, Nebraska, and there wasn't another car or truck for a good long mile-- neither in front of us nor behind us.

So, I looked at her again. Wouldn't you? If I told you I locked eyes with her at that moment, I'd be lying through my teeth... and you'd probably know it, too. I was aware, however, that she was now looking at me. Her expression was eerily deadpan. She wasn't smiling, she wasn't frowning, she was just looking. Having ascertained that I had, indeed, gotten an eye-full, she accelerated smoothly away. I guess she had more matter-of-fact goodwill to spread further down the highway.

I mentally shrugged, turned up the radio and tried not to over-think the incident. About 50 miles further on, I thundered past one of Nebraska's small but frequent rest areas. I really wasn't on the lookout, but that red convertible was hard to miss. It was sitting in the rest area parking lot. She wasn't in it. I churned on past and kept pushing toward Omaha. I never saw her again... but I did spend the next hundred miles or so checking my mirror much more often than usual.

Oh, and when I stopped, I checked the back of my trailer for messages. There weren't any.

The Grand Teton mountains of western Wyoming get their name from the French fur-traders who first explored the area.* They called the mountains, "Le Grande Tetons," because, uh, well, because they were French. In English the name means, "The Big Tits."

*Last week, I said that French fur-traders were the first to settle the site of present-day Chicago. That was true, even in the strictest sense: No area Native American tribe ever lived on the site until after European explorer/settlers did. This week's similar claim regarding western Wyoming is not strictly true. Obviously, tribes native to that area had explored it quite thoroughly, long before the fur-traders ever came along.

P.S... Bud "Wishin' and Washin'" Selig must go.

May 12, 2006

Surfing the muck

I used to assume that everyone and their son-in-law just randomly surfed through the sewage of the internet. Apparently not. Seems some people like to spend time with their families, playing softball, and doing assorted productive things. As a public service to y'all, and because I am easily bored, I have done some of the work for you. With snarky comments, no less.

  • Greatest thing I have ever read in regards to this administration, the war, and the general state of the media. This perfectly sums up my feelings on the state of our union over the past 4-5 years. I will leave the snarkiness to Mr. Pitt.
  • Today, in 1964, Barbra Streisand wins a Grammy. For all of you clowns that think that we are awarding worse and worse music at the Grammys: nope. They have ALWAYS sucked. They have always been unoriginal. Shit, the name of her album is The Barbara Streisand Album. Now I am forced to listen to this crap at every party hosted by a gay man ever. They just can't quit her. Check out all the crappy winners here.
  • Keef falls out of a coconut tree and needs brain surgery. During his dismissal from the hospital the apologizes for "being a pain in the arse." The dangers of putting the lime in the coconut and drinking all up.
  • A whole new take on the old "the dog ate my homework." This is a "my catfish burned down my house and killed my wife and kids" excuse. Very handy in a court of law.
  • First Bush is cracking the dreaded 20's in popularity and then the country gives up on Mr. Cruise. Welcome to my world, countrymen, the weather is great.
  • I have a confession. I Tae-Bo. You wouldn't know it by my belly but I do. The covers always claim that Billy was once a fighter. Well, I guess not a very good one. Here he is getting his ass kicked in about two seconds.
  • Rules for being on a gameshow.
  • EARMUFFS! . . . .FUCK INSURANCE COMPANIES!!!!! Now it seems that in Portland, Oregon the following items are banned from the playground: running, tag, swing sets, merry go rounds, tube slides, track rides, arch climbers, and teeter totters. I remember looking forward to recess.

May 8, 2006

Uh, Baker's Dozin'...

[1] "Uh, Baker's Dozin'" is my own little commentary on the tactical acumen of the current Cubs' manager. This is far from the first time that I have given this diagnosis. It dates back to 2002, several long months before he even became the Cubs' manager.

[2] Even die-hard Cubs' fans can be forgiven for missing most of Friday night's loss --er, I mean "game"-- in San Diego. For starters, most of you probably had a premonition that this was not going to be a fun road trip. Secondly, the first pitch of Friday night's contest wasn't delivered until after 9 p.m. Central Time. On top of that, the game was still scoreless when it went into extra innings more than four hours later. Most people don't like long, scoreless games. Personally, I was so excited that, well, let's just say I was glad that I was watching the game alone-- just me and my peanuts. When your team loses a 1-0 game in extra innings, there is always plenty of blame to go around. All you need to do is look at the "Left On Base" column in the next day's box scores to know that. But we, as fans, are duty-bound to routinely pin the blame on one, or maybe two, players. No doubt you saw a replay of the game-losing play: Josh Barfield's single to centerfield, scoring Khalil Greene from second. It would be easy to affix the blame to Scott Williamson for giving up that game-winning hit. I'm not going to do that. Instead, I'm going to, well, hey, let's face it: "Harp on" would be the most accurate term. I'm going to harp on three instances of sloppy defense in the game's final frame. Stick with me.

[3] By the way, for those of you who didn't notice, there's a whole [tr]uckload of new material "posted by Killre" on this fine Monday morning (or Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday evening or Thursday night or whenever you've gotten around to attending our happenin' little hoe-down). Yes, I know it's a lot of stuff. Feel free to browse around at your leisure. There won't be a quiz later. Just scroll along and see if anything catches your eye. No pressure. I'm just givin' ya a "heads-up."

[4] It isn't as if Juan Pierre didn't have a shot at cutting Greene down at home plate, especially with Greene hesitating, briefly, to make sure Barfield's line drive actually got down to the turf. But Pierre blew his chance: I've seen better throws from outfielders in high school. Heck, I've seen better throws in junior high. I would resort to hyperbole about Pierre's throw, except that I also saw Jacque Jones' throw from rightfield a batter earlier. Stick with me.

[5] Pat Hughes and Ron Santo: Saccharine and Mace.

[6] Arguably, Khalil Greene shouldn't even have been on base when Williamson gave up the hit to Barfield. There should have been two out and nobody on, instead of one out and one on. See, with nobody out and Greene on first, Williamson induced the batter prior to Barfield (I disremember now who it was) to pop a short fly to right. Jacque Jones came running in and made an easy catch. Then, seeing that Greene had wandered a bit far off of first base, Jones clumsily ripped the ball from his glove and uncorked an off-balance, still- on- the- run, half-[muled] throw to first. It was the worst throw in the History of Baseball at any level above tee-ball. From short right field, Jones' throw failed to reach the infield dirt on the fly! And it never even got to first base. Todd Walker had to come twelve feet off the bag to pick the ball up from where it rolled to a stop like a Datsun out of gas. Oh, but there's more.

[7] Many years ago, long before he started winning rings with the New York Yankees, I named Joe Girardi "the Cub most likely to be a manager someday." Judging by the talent level of the Florida Marlins, I was also correct in predicting that his first managerial job would be in the minors. I hereby issue my latest "Cub most likely to" statement. It is unlikely to actually come true, because of baseball's uneasiness with gambling, but it speaks volumes metaphorically, so I'll say it anyway: The Cub Most Likely to Someday Win a High-stakes Poker Tournement is... Greg "The Maestro" Maddux.

[8] Khalil Greene should never have made it to second base. After Jones failed to double him off of first, Padres' manager Bruce Bochey (sp?) decided to put the game in motion. He flashed Greene the "steal" sign. The Cubs' suspected San Diego might be up to something. Catcher Michael Barrett called for a pitch he could handle. And Williamson delivered it: Just a couple of inches off the outside corner, belt-high or maybe a little higher. On another night, with another umpire, it might even have been called a strike. As it was, it made for a good de facto pitch-out. Barrett had a beautiful shot at gunning down Greene at second, and he made a near-perfect throw. Too bad the middle infielder [congressed] it up...

[9] I'm not trying to advertise, but I have XM satellite radio in my truck. I used to have Sirius, but I switched to XM for the baseball package. There is one feed per game. Almost exclusively, it is the feed from the home team's radio booth. Since Ron "Mace" Santo is the Worst Sportscaster in the History of Broadcasting, I don't get my panties in a bunch over "having" to listen to the other team's radio call during Cubs' games. On the contrary, I usually consider it a respite. There is, however, one exception: I can't stand the Cardinals' Mike Shannon. I don't know which is worse: Hearing hime refer to The Maestro as "Greg Mad Ox," or listening to him yell, "Get up, baby, get up! Get up!" whenever one of the crew from Saint Loo hits a home run. I wonder if his wife is as tired of hearing that [offal] during foreplay as I am of hearing it during play-by-play.

[10] The proper spelling is: DuH.

[11] Hey, while we're at it: BcS.

[12] ...Jerry Hairston, Jr. got caught flat-footed, I think. When Khalil Greene broke for second, Hairston was a split-second late in breaking to cover the bag. Not devestatingly late, mind you, just a tad. Just enough late that he got to second base slightly out of control, undisciplined and very much in a rush. Instead of straddling the bag or setting up on the inside corner of the bag, Hairston skidded to a stop three feet to the infield side of it. On top of that, he reached forward --toward home plate-- to take Barrett's gorgeous throw. Had Hairston been on the bag instead of in front of it, Barrett's peg would have beaten Greene by four feet. As it was, Hairston caught the throw four feet short of where it needed to be. Hairston put himself in a position where he still had to plant and pivot and lunge at Greene as he went sliding past, head-first. The extra split-seconds that it took Hairston to do all of these things were the difference in the ballgame. By the time Hairston slapped his glove into the baserunner's ribcage, Greene's left hand was clenched around the outside corner of second base like it was the very last ticket to The Beatles' concert at Shea Stadium. Game over.

[13] Bud "...Independent of Either Congress or Baseball Means a Former Senator and Minority Boston Owner..." Selig must go.

A Short, Black Piece

Saturday night, I saw Lewis Black at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, CA.

The Paramount is one of those imposing, old-fashioned, pseudo-gilded, opera house style theatres with the impossibly high ceilings that looks even higher than they really are (because the walls of the auditorium are angled so that they are closer together near the stage than they are at the back) and the expansive balcony that takes up half the room. It's the kind of place that has a sizeable parlor attached to the bathrooms. It's the kind of place that has, like, "1931" stamped into a cornerstone somewhere. Heck, it's the kind of place that has a cornerstone. The decor is, of course, very art deco and very redundant-- if it isn't too redundant of me to say "art deco" and "redundant" in the same sentence. I know how some of you hate redundancy. I hate redundancy, too.

There are only four things that I'm going to tell you about the show.

(1) I had heard none of the material before. I get the feeling Lewis is virtually always working on new material.

(2) I know that many of you who read this live in and around Chicago. Alas, Lewis is not scheduled to appear in the Chicago area until mid-October, at the Rosemont.

(3) As far as whether or not the show was "good" or "bad," I will say only this: Hey, it's Lewis Black... What more do you need to know?

(4) I did have one small complaint about the show. From time to time, Lewis would over-blow his chops: raising his voice to a point that the sound system couldn't quite handle. That aspect was a little bit distracting, but it may have more to do with the Paramount's sound system than with Black.

Jim Short was the opening act. I'd heard some of his stuff before. Surprisingly, it was Short, not Black, who delivered the single most memorable, self-contained joke of the evening...

"If you drive a Hummer: You're a dick." (When delivered properly, this opening line alone will get a mild laugh-- especially when it's delivered in Short's Aussie accent.) "If you drive a yellow Hummer, you're a double-dick. That's what a yellow Hummer is: It's a double-dicker bus."
P.S... Bud "All Aboard" Selig must go.

The State of Our Onion is Strong

I. Scary

I don't know if you heard about this, but the day after George W. Bush's most recent State of the Union address, he spoke to a group of supporters in Nashville. While there, he was heard to ask, "Wouldn't it be cool to give a State of the Union speech wearing a Porter Waggoner suit?"

Ahem. My rebuttal... No! No, you Smirking Marionette, it would not be "cool!" Even now, several months later, I still get dark spots around the edges of my vision whenever I think about it, because my brain is diverting power away from basic systems in a supreme effort to come up with something --anything!-- just a little bit more uncool than that. So far, I haven't...

Oh. Oh, wait. Yeah, I think maybe I've got it: If you and your entire administration were to tell a bunch of baldfaced lies to --oh, I don't know-- justify sending thousands of citizens to die in desert fatigues in the unwarranted (there's that word again) invasion and occupation of a foreign sovereignty... That would be pretty uncool, you pandering little putz.

So thank you, King George II. I can feel my feet again.

II. Scarier

During the same public appearance, The Smirking Marionette also stated that in addition to being the nation's commander-in-chief, he also considered himself its educator-in-chief.

I'd like to repeat that: George W. Bush, educator-in-chief.

Now, don't get me wrong. It doesn't bother me that he says "Nu-Q-Ler" instead of "nuclear." Really, it doesn't. Plenty of people do that. Heck, I've probably done it myself after four or five sour mashes. No, what bothers me is that I can't be sure he doesn't think Nu-Q-Ler was Condoleezza Rice's sorority in college. Or, possibly, an obscure southwestern dish involving mesquite and a jackalope. But what really bothers me are things like this: (a) He unleashed upon the English language words like "sublimina-bubble" during his 2000 Presidential campaign; (b) He got elected anyway.

And even he is smart enough to recognize how [coitated]-up that is. Why do you think he smirks so much? I'll tell you why. I have seen that smirk before. It's the very same look my little brother used to get on his face when we were kids and he was getting away with something he knew he wasn't supposed to, right under our parents' noses.

III. Scariest

That faint, almost sublimina-bubble (hey, when in Rome) ticking sound that you keep telling yourself you only think you hear is very, very real. It is the sound of a clock, buried deep in a Wyoming bunker, counting down the minutes until This Blinkin' Administration gets the 22nd Amendment repealed. Now before you go cracking the spine on that mint condition, pocket-sized, booklet-form edition of The Constitution that you have buried in a cardboard box somewhere, let me save you the trouble: The 22nd Amendment is the one pertaining to Presidential term limits. If the Republicans retain control of Congress, y'see, they will repeal the 22nd Amendment so Georgie can run again, under the pretext of an ongoing War on Terror and the fact that the Democrats still don't have anybody, anyway. Then The Blinkin' Administration will throw a big party at the White House. Dick "Chancellor Palpatine" Cheney will pull his face into that pained grimace of a ravenous carnivore expression that he thinks looks like a smile, clap The Smirking Marionette on the shoulder and present him with a congratulatory pallet of pretzels.

Actually, it probably won't go down like that. Too much red tape. This is the gang, after all, that couldn't be bothered with the formality of taking their surveilance plan to a rubber-stamp committee like the FISA court. No, based on their track record, it is more in keeping with This Blinkin' Administration's style to simply ignore the 22nd Amendment altogether, and shoot anybody who tries to take office.

IV. The State of Our Onion is Strong

The city of Chicago derives its name from the French fur traders who first settled the site. They spelled it "Chicagoua," because of a requirement, under French law, mandating the use of more letters than necessary in every word.* The fur traders, in turn, got the name from a phrase that the Potawatomi used to describe the place. Loosely translated, they called it "the place that is strong with the stench of wild onions."**

*I made this one up.
**This one is actually true.
P.S... Bud "Don't Do What's Right, Just Do What's Gimicky" Selig must go.

A Baker's Dozen...

[1] Okay, gang, fasten your seat belts and check your mirrors. I just got back from doing the ol' nine- states- in- three- days routine, twice in one week, and I feel like a marathoner passing the twenty-mile pole: Hopped up on endorphins. Bear with me, the strain will probably show...

[2] I'm sure you've heard by now that two San Francisco Chronicle reporters released a book titled Game of Shadows last month, detailing alleged steroid use by a number of high-profile athletes. The highest profile of all, of course, belongs to Barry Bonds-- left fielder for the San Francisco Area Retirement Home All-Stars. Among the book's many accusations is the claim that Bonds' steroid regimen included the use of a substance that was originally developed to improve the muscle tone of beef cattle. *sigh* Okay, I haven't heard anybody else say it, yet, so I guess I'm gonna have to: Injections of a beef cattle steroid... now that puts a whole new twist on the term "bum steer." (Come to think, it puts a new twist on "rimshot," too.)
Disclaimer: The joke presented herein is intended to illustrate the difference between something that is genuinely funny and something that is just, well, silly.

[3] With Scott McClellan on the DL for the rest of the season, it seems it will be Dick "Guns Don't Kill People, Bullets Do" Cheney who will set the all-time league record for using the phrase, "I never said that." Cheney is so talented that he usually manages to turn it into a double play: "No, I never said that."/ Um, with all due respect, Mr. Vice President, we have you on videotape saying precisely that./ "No, the tape is wrong-- I never said that."

[4] Ahh. Horse racing's Triple Crown: The Kentucky Derby; The Belmont Stakes; and, uh, that other one in between 'em. Congratulations to Barbaro, even though I picked Bluegrass Cat.

[5] So, this lady trucker rolled into the shipping/receiving yard of the steel processing plant one day, and walked into the shipping office. We couldn't help noticing the decal in the corner of her driver's side window: A brightly-colored rainbow. The shipping manager isn't shy: "Does that rainbow decal in your window mean what I think it means?"
"Yep," she said with a smile, "Means I get more pussy than you."
True story.

[6] Recommended reading: The May 6th issue of Rolling Stone (Volume #999). It probably isn't on newsstands anymore, but maybe you can find these two articles online: Matt Taibbi's vitriolic "farewell" to Tom DeLay, which I couldn't help but love, and historian Sean Wilentz's well-structured case that The Smirking Marionette is, without question, the Worst. President. Ever.

[7] I hereby issue an edict. There are a couple of phrases that need to be expunged from American English. Henceforth and forevermore, no one is ever again allowed to "not trade [whatever] for all of the tea in China." Not even if it's "the greatest thing since sliced bread." There. I have spoken. Transgressors will be hunted down and forcibly subjected to a bikini wax. Or a root canal. It depends on my mood.

[8] Yes, Listerine does kill more germs than kerosene. But it doesn't taste as good.

[9] Ever notice this? Most people pronounce it, "Clue Clucks Clan." It's actually, "COO Clucks Clan." It's one of the many little ironies in our dialect: If you say it properly, you sound like you have a mild speech impediment. In this case, of course, that little irony is entirely fitting.

[10] Eastbound, weekday evening, somewhere west of Princeton, Illinois. Behind me, the lowering sun had dipped down to that point where it cast a deep, golden glow across the land. So rich was the gold that it seemed to whisper hints of a fiery rose. I had the ballgame on the radio, turned a bit low. Saccharine was saying that the rain from earlier in the day had abated, prompting Mace to ask, "The rain has a what?" Their voices burbled on as I leisurely went my way over and around the deep creekbeds and vibrant rolling hills, patchworked with fallow fields and highlighted by rambling, peeled-white houses, rust-red barns and silvery grain silos. And everywhere I looked, every tree was in the full, brilliant bloom of spring: Violet, magenta, and apple-blossom white. It was a breathe deep moment, a don't think too hard moment, and for just a little while I was able to relax my too-tight shoulders as several hundred of my boss' horses carried me off into the midnight blue...

[11] Ahem, still with me? Okay, to those of you who are rolling your eyes: Please forgive my waxing. But I submit: Those of you who live east of the Mississippi should count yourselves lucky this time of year. I spend most of my time in the intermountain region, where the dominant colors could best be described as "Fecal... with a five o'clock shadow of scrub-brush."

[12] Morning currency reports in Canada are funny. Canada is a nation with an identity crisis. They have an habitual tendency to measure themselves relative to their overbearing neighbor to the south. The currency reports are always the same: "The dollar is down again today against the dollar."

[13] Bud "Smithers, Have Barry Bonds Kerriganned" Selig must go.

Hot, August Knight

I'm going to talk about race. I'm telling you this now so that those of you who aren't interested in sports, and are even less interested in sports broadcasting, will either hang around or, at the very least, skip down to the good stuff. Now then...

I don't like it any better than you do. In fact, I probably like it a whole lot less. Some time ago, some empty-headed executive at ESPN decided that being the best sports information network in the world just wasn't enough. I don't remember exactly when it started, but the trend is irrefutable and irreversible: From movies to morning shows, ESPN is branching out-- diversifying their programming. In other words, they are watering down the drinks, dammit. For a little while there, they even had their own weekly, one-hour drama series called "Playmakers," until NFL commissioner Paul "The Godfather" Tagliabue had it whacked for ratting out the organization.

One of ESPN's latest sins against nature is a reality show called "Knight School," featuring basketball coach Bobby Knight. Knight, of course, is best known for being the former head coach at Indiana University. In 29 season at Indiana, Knight's Hoosiers won 11 Big Ten Championships, five NCAA Regional titles and three National Championships. His 1975-76 squad was undefeated in 32 regular- and post-season games. But Knight's tenure at Indiana was marred by a seemingly endless string of controversial incidents, virtually all of them stemming directly from the fact that Robert Montgomery Knight is a pinch-faced nexus of volatility-- a steaming and sulphuric volcano with a chip on its shoulder.

By the late summer of 2000, Indiana University had had enough of Bobby Knight. They fired him. Knight scurried off into the west Texas desert like a wounded armadillo, where an old friend (who knew he had any?) offered him One Last Chance-- to make something out of the Texas Tech basketball program. Indiana, meanwhile, replaced him with a mild-mannered man named Mike Davis, whose greatest claim to fame at that point was that he was a mild-mannered man named Mike Davis. Oh, and he's black. Indiana had never had a black head coach.

For a while, everything worked well. In his first season, Davis guided the Hoosiers all the way to the National Championship game. It looked like the hits were gonna keep on comin' at Indiana. By the beginning of 2006, however, there were low grumblings in the Hoosier State that maybe Mike Davis wasn't the man for the job after all. Those gumblings were kept pretty much on the down-low for much of the season, until Davis himself let it slip that he felt his tenure might be nearing its end. What Davis said was that he thought Indiana might feel better served if they had "one of their own" coaching the team. Publicly, everyone chose to believe the phrase "one of their own" was an allusion to University of Iowa head coach Steve Alford, a former star player at Indiana under the Knight regime. Privately, of course, no one could be faulted for wondering if "one of their own" might also have certain racial undertones in the state that --to this day-- has the nation's largest enrollment of the Ku Klux Klan. (I know, I know! But don't feel bad: Almost everybody else thinks the answer to that trivia question is "Mississippi," too.)

Then: Wouldn't you know it? Within just a day or two of Davis' comment, Bobby Knight was on the set of ESPN's "Cold Pizza" to promote his new show. Anchorwoman Dana Jacobsen drew the short straw. Naturally, she asked Knight about the situation at Indiana. True to his hair-trigger nature, Knight immediately over-reacted. Raising his voice to the point of distortion, he yelled, "I have absolutely no interest in talking about Indiana what's your next question!" Jacobsen calmly tried to explain that she valued Knight's unique insights into the situation... But Knight never let her finish. He stormed off the set.

*sigh* It's rare moments like this that almost make me wish I was still in broadcasting. (Hey, Sparky! Run that one labelled "Dream Sequence Music," will ya...?)

Knight: I have absolutely no interest in talking about Indiana what's your next question!
Killre: Well, Bobby... (He hates it when you call him "Bobby.") Well, Bobby, I guess my next question would be this: Since you're the Emperor of the Known Universe and the rest of us are a bunch of peons and whipping boys to be pushed and kicked around according to your mood and whim, why is it that you don't just walk around in a big red toga all the time, cracker? And don't threaten me with not ever granting another interview, either. You'd be doing me a favor. Hell, I didn't want to interview your sorry [mule] this time. Why don't you do us all a favor: Go crawl back into that black hole that is Lubbock, Texas, and don't come out for about twenty years. It was bad enough when I was just sick of listening to you, but now I'm sick of looking at you, too. Oh, but hey, good luck with your show.

Okay, now let's talk about Mike Davis. Not long after his "one of their own" comment, Davis held a press conference and formally resigned as Indiana's head basketball coach, effective at the end of the season. Who knows? He may even have done it semi-voluntarily-- seeking to relieve his team of the stressful uncertainty and also affording the university as much time as possible to search for his replacement. That's the kind of guy he is. Davis is honest and honorable, hard-working and intelligent. And one heck of a basketball coach.

He does, however, at times, slip into a dialect that makes you wonder why he didn't recruit better in the inner city... which is just the sort of thing to get under the skin of the Hoosier fan base. It is entirely fitting, you see, that Indiana University's school colors are red and white, because those two colors perfectly describe the State of Indiana politically and demographically: Staunchly Red, and a pasty little hue that I like to call "1950s White."

Now, make no mistake: Indiana University did not fire --yes, technically he resigned but, let's face it, they fired him-- Indiana University did not fire Mike Davis because he's black. They didn't even fire him because he's "too" black. They fired him because of pressure from their alumni and fans, a significant percentage of whom probably never liked Mike Davis... mainly because he's black. But Indiana is a basketball crazy state and if Davis' winning percentage had been high enough, they probably would have left him alone. Unfortunately for Davis, Bobby Knight set the winning percentage bar awfully, awfully high, and when Davis couldn't quite measure up to the shadow of Knight, the fans and alumni turned on him with perhaps a bit more fervor than they would have someone else.

I'm happy to report that Mike Davis landed on his feet. He is now the new head basketball coach at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Hopefully, he will beat Indiana in the second round of next year's NCAA Tournament. Even better: Here's hoping he beats Texas Tech in the first round.
P.S... Bud "I Shop At Goodwill-4-Millionaires" Selig must go.

Life's Little Ups and Downs


From: Men everywhere.

To: All those women who continue to insist that a toilet seat has a "natural" or "proper" or even a "default" setting. Namely, down.

Subject: Get over yourself.

Seriously, get over yourself. We're sick of hearing it. It's childish. There are two very good reasons why I don't give a flying rat's [donkey] that you need the toilet seat down...

(1) Because you don't give a bat's ball that --more times than not-- I need it up. Nor should you.

(2) This has got to be, without question, The Single Most Trivial and Patently Ridiculous topic that your gender has ever come up with to collectively complain about. Really, it's beneath you... and not just physically. Consider all the very real issues pertaining to gender relations in the twenty-first century and then ask yourselves: Is this really what I want to make a big deal about? Is this the way I'm going to choose to distract people from the things we really need to be discussing?

To continue to harp on what you consider to be proper toilet seat ettiquette is a discredit and a disservice to women everywhere. So stop it.

...Because, guess what? Sometimes I walk into the bathroom and find that the toilet seat isn't where I need it to be, either. How do you think that makes me feel? Do you ever think of that? No. Why just the other day, I walked into the bathroom to, uh, "be a whiz kid," and found the toilet seat down! Down! Can you believe that? I think I handled it like a man, though: I collapsed on the floor, curled my, uh, robust body into a fetal position, stuck my thumb in my mouth and wet my pants.

Think I overreacted? Good. Because if I actually had done that, it wouldn't be much more unreasonable that your continued insistance that I make sure to leave the commode set "appropriately" for your use.

Now, here's what I really did...

Step One: I didn't care. I mean, I hardly even thought about it. Hey, I'm as paranoid as anybody and way into symbolism, but I have never, ever looked upon the position of a toilet seat and thought, "That [gripe] is out to get me. This is a clear and powerful statement about my relative worth." Never thought that. Maybe I'm dense.

Step Two: I wanted the seat up, so... I... flipped... it... up. It was surprisingly easy! And it didn't take very long. And, once again, I hardly even thought about it. Really. It takes literally less than one-third of the time and mental and physical energy to flip the toilet seat up or down than it does to type the words "flip it up or down." So stop acting like it's the end of the world.

Step Three: I used the toilet. I'll spare you the details, because --contrary to all appearances-- I'm actually a pretty nice guy.

Step Four: I finished. I flushed. I washed my hands. I left. And I didn't give the commode a second thought... just like you don't give it a second thought when you're finished using it. So come down off your high horse.

Addendum: Now, ladies, if you want to talk about cleanliness, I'll back you up... Gentlemen --if I may use that term-- if you make ANY sort of mess in, on or around the toilet --or anywhere else in the bathroom, for that matter-- clean it up, [Richard Cranium]! You're makin' us all look bad.
P.S... Bud "Come On Down To Bud's, Where I'll Do Anything To Make A Sale" Selig must go.